Psalm 45:8

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 8. All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia. The divine anointing causes fragrance to distil from the robes of the Mighty Hero. He is delightful to every sense, to the eyes most fair, to the ear most gracious, to the spiritual nostril most sweet. The excellences of Jesus are all most precious, comparable to the rarest spices; they are most varied, and to be likened not to myrrh alone, but to all the perfumes blended in due proportion. The Father always finds a pleasure in him, in him he is well pleased; and all regenerated spirits rejoice in him, for he is made of God unto us, "wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." Note that not only is Jesus most sweet, but even his garments are so; everything that he has to do with is perfumed by his person. All his garments are thus fragrant; not some of them, but all; we delight as much in his purple of dominion as in the white of his priesthood, his mantle as our prophet is as dear to us as his seamless coat as our friend. All his dress is fragrant with all sweetness. To attempt to spiritualise each spice here mentioned would be unprofitable, the evident sense is that all sweetnesses meet in Jesus, and are poured forth wherever he is present. Out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad. The abode of Jesus now is imperial in splendour, ivory and gold but faintly image his royal seat; there is he made glad in the presence of the Father, and in the company of his saints. Oh, to behold him with his perfumed garments on! The very smell of him from afar ravishes our spirit, what must it be to be on the other side of the pearl gate, within the palace of ivory, amid those halls of Zion, "conjubilant with song," where is the throne of David, and the abiding presence of the Prince! To think of his gladness, to know that he is full of joy, gives gladness at this moment to our souls. We poor exiles can sing in our banishment since our King, our Wellbeloved, has come to his throne.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 8. All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad. Although there is considerable obscurity overhanging these words, still the general idea of a supereminent fulness of anointing is quite apparent, combined, however, with the other idea that the anointing oil or ointment os of the most exquisite quality. Myrrh, and aloes, and cassia were celebrated for their peculiar fragrance, on which account they were used in compounding the choicest unguents. Myrrh and cassia are mentioned in Exodus 30:23-24 , as two of the spices of which the holy anointing oil was made up. All its ingredients were considered sacred. The Israelites were forbidden to pour it upon man's flesh, or to attempt any imitation of it in their own perfumes. Ivory was in early times, as it still is, rare and costly, and it was highly esteemed as a material for household decoration, on which the finest workmanship and the most princely expenditures were displayed. In palaces of ivory, therefore, it was to be expected that, in correspondence with the magnificence of their structure and the costliness of their furniture, the ointment employed for anointing would be of the richest perfume, and in the greatest profusion. According to our version of the Psalm, the divine Saviour is thus represented as being anointed with oil of the very best kind, even oil taken from the ivory palaces; and also as receiving it in no ordinary measure. His anointing was not confined to a few ceremonial drops poured upon the head, but so abundant is it said to have been, that all his garments smelled of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia. Bishop Horsley has proposed a change in the translation, by which means the idea of abundance is connected, not with the fragrance arising from the anointing, but with the anointing itself, which is a different and far more important thing. "Thy garments are all myrrh, aloes, and cassia, excelling the palaces of ivory, excelling those which delight thee." This translation, which is strictly literal as well as poetical, is at the same time comparatively free from obscurity, and it visibly sets forth, under the most expressive imagery, the surpassing measure of that anointing which was conferred on our Lord above all his fellows. His garments are supposed not merely to have been all richly perfumed, or even thoroughly saturated with the oil of gladness, but to have consisted of the very articles which entered into the composition of the most precious and odoriferous unguent: Thy garments are all myrrh, aloes, and cassia. This is figurative language, but nothing could more emphatically exhibit how truly "the Spirit rested on Jesus, and abode with him" in all the plenitude of his heavenly gifts. That heavenly anointing constituted, as it were, his very dress, "excelling" in the quantity or measure of the anointing "the palaces of ivory;" because their furniture, however highly scented, were not made of aromatic materials. The strength of the perfumes would evaporate, the fragrance would soon diminish; but permanent as well as plentiful fragrance is secured to him whose "garments are all myrrh, aloes, and cassia." It is added, in the way of parallelism, "excelling those which delight in thee," or those which make thee glad. To say that the persons here alluded to are the occupiers of the ivory palaces, might perhaps be objected to as fanciful; but palaces are the abodes of kings; and anointed kings wither literally, or typically, or spiritually, are the fellows of the Lord's Anointed One; and it does seem manifest that, as his anointing causes joy and gladness to all the parties concerned in it, so likewise there is an anointing of those who are honoured to be his fellows which causes joy and gladness to him. The persons who are in the one verse spoken of as giving delight to Christ, there is no reason to regard as any other than the persons spoken of in the former verse as his "fellows." And if this is the case, then we have a comparison drawn betwixt the one and the other in the matter of their anointing, and to that of Christ a decided superiority is ascribed. David Pitcairn, in "The Anointed Saviour," 1846.

Verse 8. All thy garments smell of myrrh, etc. These things are true in Jesus; by his garments in meant his righteousness; for it is written, He clothed himself with righteousness and zeal. And here the translator hath put in smell, which rather should have been are, for "his garments are of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia," that is, truly purging, cleansing, and making sound; for his righteousness, which is the righteousness of faith, maketh sound hearted Christians; whereas, man's righteousness, which is the righteousness of works, maketh filthy hypocrites. And by "ivory palaces," is meant the true faith and fear of God; for ivory is solid and white, and palaces are king's houses; and by Christ we are made kings, and our dwelling is in faith and fear of God; and this is the gladness and joy of our Lord Jesus, that he brings many sons and daughters unto God. Richard Coore, 1683.

Verse 8. Out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad. Commentators have been more perplexed in explaining these words than any other part of the Psalm. Not to detain you with the various expositions that have been proposed, I will give you what I conceive to be the meaning of the passage. The word rendered whereby, is also the name of a region in Arabia Felix, namely, Minnaea, which, according to the geographer Strabo, "abounded in myrrh and frankincense." Now, it is singular that, according to the historian, Diodorus Siculus, "the inhabitants of Arabia Felix had sumptuous houses, adorned with ivory and precious stones." Putting these two things together, therefore, namely, that this region abounded in myrrh and frankincense, and that its inhabitants adorned their houses with ivory, we may, I conceive, find a clue to the psalmist's meaning. If we substitute "Minnaea" for "whereby," the passage will run thus - -

"Myrrh, aloes, and cassia, are all thy garments.
From ivory palaces of Minnaea they have made thee glad."

You recollect in the verse just going before, the oil with which Christ was said to be anointed, is called the oil of "gladness." Accordingly, he is here said to be made glad (it is the same word in both places in the Hebrew), by the spices of which that oil is composed. This spices are said to have been brought out of the most spicy region of the land of spices, and it is implied that they are the best spices of that spicy region. Out of the ivory palaces, says the psalmist; not only houses, but palaces -- the mansions of the great, where the best spices would naturally be kept -- out of these have come the myrrh, aloes, and cassia, that have composed the oil of gladness whereby thou art made glad. God anointed Christ, when he set him on his everlasting throne, with the oil of gladness; and this anointing was so profuse, his garments were so overspread with it, that they seemed to be nothing but myrrh, aloes, and cassia. The spices, moreover, of which the anointing oil was composed, were the best of their kind, brought, as they were, from the ivory palaces of Minnaea. Such appears to be the psalmist's meaning; and when thus understood, the passage becomes most beautifully expressive of the excellency and unmeasured supply of the gifts and graces of that Spirit with which Christ was anointed by his Father. George Harpur.

Verse 8. The ivory palaces. The ivory courts. Probably so called from the great quantity of ivory used in ornamenting and inlaying them; as the emperor Nero's palace, mentioned by Suetonius, was named, "aurea," or "golden," because "lita auro," "overlaid with gold." This method of ornamenting or inlaying rooms was very ancient among the Greeks. Homer in the fourth book of the Odyssey, seems to mention it, as employed in Menelaus's palace at Lacedaemon; and that the Romans sometimes ornamented their apartments in like manner, seems evident from Horace and Ovid. So in modern times, the winter apartment of the fair Fatima at Constantinople, has been described by an eye witness as "wainscotted with inlaid work of mother of pearl, ivory of different colours, and olive wood." Ivory is likewise employed at Aleppo, as Dr. Russell informs us, in the decoration of some of the more expensive apartments. Richard Mant.

Verse 8. Ivory palaces. Either edifices 1 Kings 22:39 Song of Solomon 7:14 , or ivory coffers, and wardrobes, whence those garments were taken, and are kept. Westminster Assembly's Annotations.

Verse 8. Whereby they have made thee glad. The best sense of the phrase -- from which they rejoice thee -- is had by making they refer to the king's daughters mentioned in the next verse. William S. Plumer.

Verse 8. Gesenius and Delitzsch consider (ynm) an abbreviated form of the plural (~ynm) Ps 105:4, "strings," or "stringed instruments," and would render thus: -- "Thee glad out of the ivory palaces stringed instruments have made." Dalman Hapstone. (With this rendering Ewald and Lange agree.) J. L. K.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 8. Christ's garments -- his offices, his two natures, his ordinances, his honours, all are full of fragrance.

Verse 8. Whereby they have made thee glad. We make Jesus glad by our love, our praise, our service, our gifts, our holiness, our fellowship with him.

Verse 8.

  1. The odour of his garments, not of blood and battle, but of sweet perfume.
  2. The splendour of his palaces -- ivory for rareness, purity, durability, etc.
  3. The source of his delight.
  4. Himself, the sweet odour of his own graces. 2. His people, the savour of those who are saved. 3. His enemies, "even in them that perish." 4. All holy happy creatures who unite to make him glad. G.R.